Why is the Mont Ventoux such an iconic mountain in the cycling world?
The Mont Ventoux also nicknamed by the locals “the Giant of Provence” has, over the last century become one of the most emblematic cycling climbs in France if not Europe. Thanks to its isolation with other mountains, its position in Provence, and the rich cycling history linked to it, the Mont Ventoux might be one of your next great cycling experiences, thanks to one of our Mont Ventoux cycling tours!
But, why is the Mont Ventoux such an iconic mountain in the cycling world?
Some facts about this “Giant of Provence”
The Mont Ventoux is the highest Provence summit as it culminates at 1909 metres-high. This mountain is part of the Alps but its secluded position, away from other mountains of the similar height around it, allows the Mont Ventoux to oversee Vaucluse, Drome and the Rhone Valley. Indeed, atop this mountain, you have a 360° view over the surrounding regions, and on sunny and clear days, you can even see as far as Marseille!
The Mont Ventoux is classified as a UNESCO Biosphere reserve as it is, other than its geolocial specificities, an incredible site to understand and discover, by bike, the amazing variety of fauna and flora as it gives you a detailed insight into the different fauna and flora of Provence. Thanks to its slopes, that have their very own climate particularities, you can observe several ecotones as you are enjoying your Mont Ventoux cycling trip up to the summit. Indeed, you will ride past several very distinct ecotones: from the lower stages with its Mediterranean fauna, up to the top and its polar-type environment.
The Mont Ventoux is crossed by very strong winds, from which its name comes from. "Venteux" in French means "windy" as it is very often the case up top: with wind blowing for about 240 days per year, at an average of 90km per hour, your Mont Ventoux cycling tour will certainly be one of the most challenging climbs of your life! 320km/h winds have been recorded on the summit of the Mont Ventoux, as it is registered as one of the strongest wind powers ever recorded in the world!
Why is the Mont Ventoux a legendary cycling climb?
The Mont Ventoux only recently became a famous cycling climb, as it was first introduced to the Tour de France in 1951and it was, for the first time made the last stage of the Tour de France in 1958. The Mont Ventoux came under the spotlight for what is one of the most tragic stories in the history of the Tour de France, in 1967 where Tom Simpson, one of the most successful British cyclist ever, as he sadly passed as he was climbing the “Giant of Provence”. Simpson, a British cycling legend, died because of his use of drugs, mixed with alcohol which helped him surpass his endurance limits, which had dramatic consequences on his body and that would later lead to his death. The scorching heat felt that year exacerbated this situation. In the 1968 Tour de France, the year after Tom Simpson's death, were implemented the first anti-doping rules.
This dramatic event made the Mont Ventoux one of the most feared but also emblematic stage of the Tour de France. Today, there are still many cyclists that stop next to the memorial erected where Simpson collapsed, as it has become a pilgrimage for cyclist enjoying a Provence cycling tour, that want to climb this mountain.
The other reason why this mountain has become so famous in the cycling world as many cyclists travel across the world to enjoy a Mont Ventoux cycling climb is because of the ever-constant difficulty that the climb induces. Indeed, only few cyclists manage to complete the task as this mountain as an average gradient of 7.42% per kilometre, with some stages reaching over 10% gradient per kilometre.
Some cycling specificities of the Mont Ventoux
Other than the constant and very high gradient that cyclists will have to face to reach the summit of the Giant of Provence, other reasons make this ascension so difficult:
- The weather: As the Tour de France takes place in July, the Mont Ventoux is often bathed in sun, as it receives no less than 2400 hours of sun per year. The temperatures, even If lower than at the foot of it, the Mont Ventoux regularly experiences high temperatures in summer, as it was the case in 1967, the year of Simpson’s death. Crossed by very strong winds on a nearly daily basis, it makes the climb even more gruelling for the professional and amateur cyclists that try to climb it.
- The different itineraries to climb it: There are three different cycling routes that allow the cyclists to climb the Mont Ventoux. You can or start your climb from Malaucène, Sault and Bédoin, the latter being the most famous cycling route. Every itinerary starts from a different side of the mountain, that have their own respective difficulties.
- The beauty of the landscape: climbing the Mont Ventoux on your bike might be one of the most difficult cycling achievements of your life but reaching the top and admiring the incredible panorama that it offers is definitely worth it!